My friend Marilyn and I have been discussing this via email back and forth for a bit, and today she posted a little about it.
My lament has been that school has had a tendency to get stressful as I work to cover all the bases and keep order in a home that has more little children than big ones. I realize that as the kids get older and are able to help more, there will be more time for us to relax as a family, but right now I am still at a point where most of the housework, cooking and teaching falls on my shoulders. And I do tend toward perfectionism (in desire, if not in fact!), so I see my failings acutely, in every dusty piece of furniture, in every less-than-well-balanced meal, in every unused science or history book.
This post was a balm for my guilty soul. But I have had to sort out a few things on my own as well with the approach of the new school year.
I have had to take a good, hard look at my Why we Homeschool list, and a dispassionate look at how I did things last year, and I see that I have not keeping to the goals I set out to meet at the onset.
Here are some of the things I want to keep in mind this year. A list to post under my Why We Homeschool list:
1) I have been guilty of placing academics before God. I hereby resolve to trust our Lord and take Him at His word, believing that if I put Him and His kingdom first, whatever else is needed will follow. This is not to say that I am ready to become an "unschooler". I am much too list/schedule/task-oriented to be able to handle that without having a nervous breakdown. But I will try not to allow myself to get bent out of shape about finishing this workbook, or whether this son of mine is reading at grade level, or whether the kids are getting enough science or not.
2) JOY is what I want to cultivate in our home. I have a mortal dread of the children turning 18 and chomping at the bit to get away from home. And so it is my intention to work at making our home a joyful place. Working through my tiredness, my crabbiness, my children's bickering, and everything else that is working against the cultivation of joy. It will be a daily battle to maintain peace--how's that for paradox?--but I hope to be victorious with God's help.
3) I want this family to be Christ-centered, and for us to pray more as a family. We tend to be pretty good about our evening Rosary and grace before meals, and I pray every morning when the house is still quiet, but I want all the children to join me--and Bret, now that he is working at home--in morning and bedtime prayers. We have never been good about doing morning prayers with the kids (although during the school year I always began our day with prayer and a verse or two of Immaculate Mary), but bedtime prayers have been spotty, mainly because our rosary is right before bedtime and it seems easy to blow off any further prayer when we are all tired and ready to go to bed--or fighting to get toddlers into bed.
4) I want us to live the liturgical year in our home. The blogs I list among my favorites will be an immense help with this, as these moms are so very good at finding the right prayer, craft, recipe and/or resource for every Catholic feast and holy day. This will take a little planning ahead, but since out here I haven't the option of making it to a daily Mass, I think it is important.
5) I need to relax. This is not easy for me. I don't like to be idle, and I always have a list of a million things I need to do and another million I want to do. When I am watching a video, I am also making a menu plan; when we drive to Mass, I am knitting; when I am nursing, I am blogging, reading to the kids or answering email--or thinking about what I need to do next. Learning to just be with the kids and give them my undivided attention will be something very hard for me, but infinitely worthwhile I think. I need to be with them and not think about how I ought to be mopping the floor, tending to the pile of mending or drilling them with Latin flashcards. I need to aim to get school done nice and early, so that we have time to relax together in the afternoon before making dinner. And I need to stick to menu plans and precooked meals and such so that dinner will not be such a stressful time as well.
There it is, in a rather large nutshell. Ask me in February how we are doing. I hope I'll be able reply without shame...